App #55: Extempore – A Language Teacher’s Most Important Tool!

As a language educator, it is my goal for my students to be able to speak spontaneously in the target language. Every language teacher knows the challenge of getting all students to speak authentically in class. Here is an excellent tool that all foreign language teachers will love to have. Extempore is a service designed for educators to assess speaking skills as they learn a new language. Extempore has proven to be a very effective and time-saving assessment tool.

Extempore is both an app and a website. Teachers will need to set up an account and input their class(es).


Setting up a teacher account

Simply share the class login link and within minutes your students will have access to your assignments on their devices. Share the class link via Edmodo, google classroom or through a class blog or email. Extempore also integrates with Canvas LMS, so you can simply import your Extempore assessments into a Canvas assignment.


Set up assignments and select start times and due dates. Easily plan for future assessments and put the start dates in. Students will not see them until those dates. Perfect for teachers to get ahead in their assessment planning.

The obvious advantages to Extempore versus traditional oral assessment are time savings and student anxiety.

Traditionally, I remember having students complete oral “exams” and spending 5-7 minutes with each student while the rest of the class practiced. This is probably how most traditional language teachers assess orally. Now, with Extempore, teachers can save a lot of time by assigning students questions to complete on their own time. Instructors are given the option as to whether students can redo their answers or not. They can also set time limits for the students between seeing the prompt questions and answering them. This will ensure that students do not rehearse or worse yet memorize their responses. Scripted responses are not the authentic answers that we as teachers want. Once graded, all it takes is a tap on your device, and grades and any written and oral feedback are immediately sent to your students’ devices. Grades can also be exported to excel if needed.

Students with any type of nervousness or anxiety will greatly benefit from this app as well. No longer will they have to be “face-to-face” with their teachers, but instead can submit their responses at their own leisure.

For teachers like myself who teach multiple classes, it is super convenient to select via a drop-down menu the class you would like to view.

Assessment: 

Setting up the criteria for grading is completely designed and customized by the teachers. Criteria may include: vocabulary, pronunciation, enunciation, expression etc. All of this can then be assessed at the discretion of the instructor, instead of traditionally having to do everything all at once during the face to face interview.


Setting up the criteria for grading is completely designed and customized by the teachers. Criteria may include: vocabulary, pronunciation, enunciation, expression etc. All of this can then be assessed at the discretion of the instructor, instead of traditionally having to do everything all at once during the face to face interview.


Setting up the criteria for grading is completely designed and customized by the teachers. Criteria may include: vocabulary, pronunciation, enunciation, expression etc. All of this can then be assessed at the discretion of the instructor, instead of traditionally having to do everything all at once during the face to face interview.

Now, educators can take as little or as much time grading these at their own leisure. They can simply make a few taps to give them a numbered grade, or spend extra time giving written (or spoken) feedback. I love the flexibility here, as this gives many options on returning feedback to students.

As soon as teachers submit their feedback, students can see this screen on their own devices: 

User Guide:

On the Extempore website, there is an extensive list of how-to videos that will be helpful for those new to its service. I found these very well made and to the point.

Extempore also provides free of charge an excellent ebook with loads of activities for oral assessment. These were fantastic ideas and I look forward to using them myself! Ideas include “Celebrity Interviews”, “Phonetics practice”, and a “Story Retelling” task.  There are so many ideas here that will ignite even more practical ways to use this app.

Cost:

Extempore offers a free 30 day trial. After that, they have two payment options: Institution-paid and Student-Paid. In the school paid model, it costs $8.99USD per student per year, with a discount for larger numbers. In the student-paid model, students pay $8.99 for each class they are in. It depends on the situation, but if your school can budget for this (especially if you have just one class), I think it’s great value. For myself as a teacher of 15 classes, it may not be as feasible, but I would definitely explore using it for my older students.

Conclusion:

The personalization of Extempore is what I love most about it. Teachers can load their own questions, set their own parameters, and decide on how students will be graded. Students will love being able to see their responses and their feedback as quickly as the teachers can grade them. Questions can be specific and also very open-ended. This will give teachers an excellent sample of speaking levels of their students. Also, progress over time can be measured. Both students and teachers will enjoy seeing gradual improvement. If your school has the budget for this, I highly recommend checking it out for yourself!

Take a look at this testimonial:

Interested in Extempore? Do take a few minutes checking out their extensive website at extemporeapp.com.

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